Protest and indifference in Dallas after a white bartender beats a black woman provides a glimpse at what the next two years will look like.
|Mar 25|| 1|
It started the other night when a white bartender beat the hell out of a black woman, and it ended early Sunday morning with the cops clearing the street under threat of arrest so traffic could flow smoothly in the busiest bar district in Dallas.
“This is the Dallas Police Department,” an officer said through a bullhorn as 1 a.m. approached. “This is your third and final warning. You are blocking a roadway and need to move to the sidewalk immediately. If not, you will be arrested.”
“Thank you for coming out,” the cop added.
A young black woman twirled in front of the line of officers who were smart enough not to have escalated the situation by showing up in riot gear but were ready to go with those plastic zip ties they use to make mass arrests. Hidden behind them a block back and around the corner was a couple of cops in a paddy wagon, waiting to fill it if they needed. I heard this over the police scanner I had piping through earphones into my ear, so I told one of the main protesters that the cops were not fucking around.
By the time we went to grab a last call beer it was all over. No one had been arrested and, other than a brief and stupid three-way scuffle between a drunk guy, protesters and the cops, there had been nothing remotely approaching violence. The worst part was watching a black female cop have to stand there and absorb vitriol from the twirling woman and her friends who were reminding that cop that the white officers around her would never save her, would never be there to help her.
“I hope you sleep well tonight, sista,” they taunted her. “Because we won’t with all these white supremacist cops running around.”
After three hours of walking through Deep Ellum — a drunk and rowdy neighborhood packed with bars, clubs and restaurants every few feet — the protesters were done. They made their taunts and eventually most of the cops dispersed, leaving just two of them and a squad car on the corner. I watched them from across the street as I sipped my beer.
They waived their flashlights on the street to let drivers know traffic was flowing again. The cars rolled by, blaring music. Girls in short skirts and high heels plotted out their final drinks of the night. Young men followed them, tongues wagging.
If you passed through that intersection at that moment you would have had no idea that dozens of protesters had spent their Saturday night there expressing their pain and anger that the bartender — who viciously beat the women over a parking dispute and has been accused of using racial slurs while doing so — hasn’t been charged with a hate crime.
Hours’ worth of heated moments that are partly the product of hundreds of years of scars building on top of each other for black Americans were once again on display — only to be wiped quickly away so people could carry on with their Saturday night.
I think of the firefighters I used to watch wash the blood off sidewalks and streets in Peoria and Chicago where I saw so many people die. It reminds me how quickly we all forget about things that just happened, and how numb we have become to things that happen every day.
“Yeah it’s amazing. Our Republic is falling but I can still get my zingers at Casey’s,” someone wrote to me the other day.
We’re at the end of something we know and the beginning of something we don’t, now that the key finding of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation — that the president didn’t work directly with Russia to interfere in our election — has been released. For the last two years this question has been hanging over us, or at least some of us.
Never discount the fact that, at any moment, at least a third of the country has no idea what’s going on and more to the point doesn’t care. They only care when something happens directly to them or someone they know, or something happens in front of them, like it did last night.
There were a dozen great moments of white and hispanic folks stumbling upon what was at one point a group of nearly 100 black protesters walking through the streets, chanting. In each of those young faces you could see the wheels slowly starting to turn that they were witnessing something quite a bit bigger and more important than their Saturday night, before the wheels reversed and they went back to focusing on themselves.
But my favorite moment, simply because it was both enraging and stupid enough to nearly perfectly encapsulate this exact, terribly dumb time in this country’s history, goes like this:
White guy 1: “Hey man we should yell at them ‘We support the cops!’”
Black guy turns around: “What?’
White guy 2: “So what’s going on, man?”
Black guy: Explains, I chime in, saying they’re protesting the beating of a black woman.
White guy 2: “Well, did it really happen? Because, you know, fake news.”
That’s how easy it is now. Someone just has to say fake news and it somehow qualifies as a meaningful statement or sentiment, a thoughtful criticism, even. Before, it was just that the media was biased. No matter who you talked to, no matter what you were talking about, the media was biased. Now, you just say fake news.
But before it was different. Even it was as short sighted, the criticism was at least somewhat reasonable: The media is biased. Although it never made much sense considering no matter who you were talking to, they always said the media was biased, without recognition that the very same criticism was coming from the other side at the same time.
One of the great joys of being a journalist is being screamed at by people on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum because you were being biased against them. We go out there every day to try to tell people what we’ve learned and found, and they come back at us with, That’s because you’re biased — no matter what is that you’re saying.
I was looking through my notes from Charlotte when I started writing this because it was the last time I remember walking around with protesters like I did last night. That was in September 2016, and it was toward the end of a run of two years in which I travelled around the country covering police shootings. Most of the national media did the same. Then we elected Trump and now we don’t really cover that stuff anymore.
Anyway I found this, which I can attribute to a white guy I met in a sports bar while we a Carolina Panthers game on one of the first Sundays of the season.
“What needs to happen in this country is that the media needs to quit trying to divide us. In my opinion the media is the biggest problem in this country. The media reports purposefully the stuff that’s gonna cause controversy.”
Think about the deep and fundamental lack of understanding of how journalism works that is reflected in that statement. It’s the same misunderstanding that the president has about the role of journalism — that no one should report anything that makes him look bad. This man in Charlotte was saying, essentially, that we shouldn’t report anything that makes anyone look bad.
To clarify, the media covers “stuff that’s gonna cause controversy” — otherwise known as bad things — because that’s the only way that bad things can maybe become good things. We have to know about bad things that are happening if we want to put a stop to them, which most people do.
So now, after two years of wondering about what Robert Mueller would find, we’re at the end another era. The last era pretty much ended in Charlotte, which was the last time the national media covered a police shooting in large numbers. And this era ended on Sunday with a simple statement from the Department of Justice that said the president didn’t conspire with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
Now, we enter something different. I don’t what it will bring or how it will end but I do know this: it will be marked with a great level of indifference by the many and significant obsession by the few. I think a lot about how easy it is to ignore or not even know about what’s happening in this country. Because people have to go to their jobs and pay their bills, clean their cars and buy groceries, take their kids to school and feed them dinner and get them to bed at night — all the things we have to do each day just to keep on living. But we ought to pay attention and be involved or else we’re going to be in worse trouble than we are now.
How we get people to care enough to know what’s happening and get involved is something I can’t even begin to have an answer to, but I think I caught a glimpse of it how some will respond to this new era of heavy partisan warfare for the next year as the next election nears.
After the protesters left and the traffic resumed a young man returned to the table his girlfriend was sitting at. She was trying to talk to him and he held up a finger to let her know he wasn’t feeling well. She kept talking and he started looking very bad. He vomited right on the table they were sitting at and she rolled her eyes. The bouncer politely asked him to leave and motioned to the waitress, who was cleaning other tables of spilt beer and leftover pieces of hamburgers. I’m sorry, the bouncer said with his eyes.
She walked over to the table and began wiping away the vomit, cleaning up a mess she hadn’t made.
P.S. All the photos in this post are mine. I’m not sure how many people reading this newsletter come here specifically for immigration coverage, but for those who do, we’ll be getting back to that later this week. As always, if there’s something you like, don’t like, are ambivalent about or whatever, reach me at justin.glawe@gmail. And if you like what you see please forward this email to anyone else who might want to join Where Do We Go From Here.